English Place-name Society

Survey of English Place-Names

A county-by-county guide to the linguistic origins of England’s place-names – a project of the English Place-Name Society, founded 1923.

Sword Point

Early-attested site in the Parish of Holme

Historical Forms

  • Sweordora c.1000 BCS297
  • Swerord super Witlemærebanc 1146 Cottvii.3
  • Swerdeshord super Withelesmere c.1150 Rams c.1350
  • Swerdesorde c.1150 Rams c.1350
  • Swerdeshord 1279 RH
  • Swere Point, Swere Hord c.1750 Bodger'sMapofWhittleseaMere
  • Sword Point 1766 J 1787 Cary 1822 Darton
  • Swere Point 1836 O


The old maps of Whittlesea Mere show on the south side of the mere a broadish peninsula pushing itself up into the lake.At its north-west corner is a point of land called Swere Point and behind it a corner of the peninsula is marked off as Swere Hord . Mr Goodall in a study of the document known as the Tribal Hidage (BCS 297), shortly to be published and very generously placed at our disposal, shows how this is to be identified with the Swerdora of that document, where it appears as the name of a territory, estimated to contain 300 families, and with the Swerord of the foundation charter of Sawtry Abbey (1146). The full significance of this discovery is explained in the Introduction (xix). With regard to the site we can only regret that the draining of the mere has removed all trace of the peninsula and the point. It was approximately where Engine Farm now stands.

The etymology of the name is not an easy one owing to the inconsistency of the early forms. The final element is, almost certainly, ord . That is the form found in all the early documents except the Tribal Hidage, and the text of this document is notoriously corrupt. (The hord - forms show the common inorganic h which develops before a second element beginning with a vowel.) Further, Bodger's map shows a series of names ending in -hord right round the mere, evidently taking their name from projections of land, e.g. Grimeshord , Alderhord . What the first element is, is not so clear. sweord , 'sword,' whether in the nominative or the genitive, giving a name 'sword(s)- point,' is not very likely on the topographical side, and is inconsistent at the one end with the form in the Sawtry charter which, as a rule, has good forms, and at the other it is difficult to see how it could have developed to the Swere Hord found on Bodger's map or could have given rise to a Swere Point . On the other hand, if we start with Swerord , the compiler of the Tribal Hidage having written Sweordora in error for Sweororda (with his usual genitival -a suffixed to Swerord ), the development to Swere Hord is normal and one can well understand a translation of Swere Ord having given rise to a Swere Point , while Sword Point would be a natural reduction of Swere Ord Point . This involves the assumption that the forms in the Ramsey Cartulary and in Rotuli Hundredorum are corrupt, but that seems the smaller difficulty of the two, and it may be that a process of folk-etymology was assisted by some such process as a doubling of the suffix, Swerord being expanded to Swerordesord or Swerdesorde . If this is accepted then the Swerord is to be explained as a compound of OE  sweora, 'neck,' and ord , the whole name meaning 'point at the end of the neck of land.'

Swerord or rather the district to which it came to be applied may have left one other trace on old maps where King 's Delph is alternatively known as Sword Dike or Swerdes Delf.

Places in the same Parish